POLITICO Playbook: The tweet that has GOP leaders cringing – POLITICO

A BREAK FROM IMPEACHMENT … TODAY’S NRCC … A FEW WEEKS AGO, Democratic South Carolina Rep. JOE CUNNINGHAM’S wife, Amanda, complained on Instagram that the couple’s health care — which Cunningham gets through the government — did not cover “mental-health therapy” and marriage counseling. The Post and Courier wrote a story and so did the Free Beacon, which has the video

THE NRCC — which, as the NYT pointed out, has punched frequently this cycle — pounced. The NRCC initially jumped on Cunningham’s video (which, to be fair, many Republicans thought was a bit tone-deaf, given the generous health benefits afforded to members of Congress).

BUT THAT WASN’T ENOUGH for the folks on First Street SE. NRCC staffers decided to rib Amanda Cunningham for apparently being in marriage counseling. After she posted on Instagram that she appreciated Beto O’Rourke “getting bolder,” the NRCC went to town. Their broadside had nothing to do with insurance.

— @NRCC, at 12: 45 p.m. Thursday: “Looks like Mrs. Cunningham likes a man who supports baseless impeachment…wonder if this will come up in @RepCunningham’s marriage counseling?” The accompanying news release: “Will impeachment be discussed in Cunningham’s marriage counseling?”

CHRIS PACK, the spokesman for the NRCC, said Cunningham gave them the opening for this attack: “A few weeks ago, multiple outlets ran a story about Joe Cunningham’s wife publicly complaining that her husband’s taxpayer-funded health care plan doesn’t cover her marriage counseling. We referenced that tone deaf complaint when she publicly praised Beto’s support of impeachment. She is the one who first publicly brought up these issues, not us. And they aren’t going to help Cunningham win re-election in SC-01.”

— FOR CONTEXT: It wasn’t the Democrats who pointed this out to us — it was Republicans. (More on that soon.) People in the GOP leadership cringed when we showed them this tweet.

Good Friday morning. POLITICO STAFF MOVES: Laura Barrón-López is going to cover race and demographic issues in the presidential campaign, and Ally Mutnick is joining the team from National Journal to cover House campaigns. Staff memo

OK, BACK TO IMPEACHMENT … A FEW IMPORTANT THINGS:

Speaker NANCY PELOSI is going to be on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” this morning at around 7: 30 a.m. Eastern — her first TV interview since announcing her support for an impeachment inquiry.

PELOSI QUOTE OF THE DAY … PELOSI to THE NEW YORKER EDITOR DAVID REMNICK, in a piece with the headline: “Nancy Pelosi: An Extremely Stable Genius”: “This is a strain of cat that I don’t have the medical credentials to analyze nor the religious credentials to judge.’” New Yorker

NYT: “White House Knew of Whistle-Blower’s Allegations Soon After Trump’s Call With Ukraine Leader,” by Julian Barnes, Mike Schmidt, Adam Goldman and Katie Benner: “The White House learned that a C.I.A. officer had lodged allegations against President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine even as the officer’s whistle-blower complaint was moving through a process meant to protect him against reprisals, people familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

“The officer first shared information about potential abuse of power and a White House cover-up with the C.I.A.’s top lawyer through an anonymous process, some of the people said. The lawyer shared the officer’s concerns with White House and Justice Department officials, following policy. Around the same time, the officer separately filed the whistle-blower complaint.” NYT

— KNIVES OUT FOR DOJ … AP: “How the White House, DOJ learned about the whistleblower”: “[O]n Aug. 14, White House counsel John Eisenberg and a CIA official alerted the head of DOJ’s national security division about the original complaint to the CIA.

“John Demers, who leads the national security division, went to the White House the next day to review materials associated with the call. He then alerted people within the Justice Department, but it was unclear specifically who he told.

“In the following weeks, Demers had discussions with other Justice Department officials about how to handle the CIA complaint, according to the person familiar with the matter. It was during that period that the Justice Department also received a notification from the intelligence community’s inspector general about a whistleblower complaint.” AP

— HMM … NYT’S PETER BAKER: “[O]ther officials amplified the narrative on Thursday with details that were not in the complaint. For instance, they said, at one point an order was given to not distribute the reconstructed transcript of Mr. Trump’s call electronically, as would be typical. Instead, copies were printed out and hand delivered to a select group.” NYT

WAPO: “Effort to shield Trump’s call with Ukrainian leader was part of broader secrecy effort,” by Josh Dawsey and Carol Leonnig: “The White House has taken extraordinary steps over the past two years to block details of President Trump’s phone calls with foreign leaders from becoming public, following embarrassing disclosures early in his administration that enraged the president and created a sense of paranoia among his top aides.

“The number of aides allowed to listen on secure ‘drop’ lines was slashed. The list of government officials who could review a memo of the call’s contents was culled. Fewer copies of transcripts went to agencies, and they were stamped with ‘EYES ONLY DO NOT COPY.’ And some officials who deliver call memos had to sign for the records to create a custody record if they were to leak, according to people familiar with the moves who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe them.

“At one point in 2018, Defense Department officials were asked to send back transcripts of calls to the White House after Trump aides grew worried they could be disclosed, according to former senior administration officials.” WaPo

CONVERSATIONS WITH RUDY… BEN SCHRECKINGER: “‘I’m the real whistleblower,’ declared Giuliani, who claimed to possess more damaging information and insisted that he, too, should be entitled to whistleblower protections. ‘If I get killed now,’ he warned, ‘you won’t get the rest of the story.’” POLITICO

ANDREW DESIDERIO and SARAH FERRIS: “Vulnerable Democrats seek impeachment guidance from Pelosi”: “Several junior lawmakers on Thursday voiced concerns in a closed-door meeting with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders that they are struggling to keep up with their party’s message on the Ukraine scandal rapidly engulfing President Donald Trump, according to multiple people in the room.

“While Pelosi and her deputies listened and took notes, freshmen from competitive districts suggested they needed more real-time guidance to keep up with the fast-moving developments in the age of Twitter and near-instant leaks. Members said they were often dismayed to learn of major news through tweets or in news accounts — and some vented about leaks from internal caucus meetings.” POLITICO

WAPO: “Democrats eye quick impeachment probe of Trump as freshmen push for focus on Ukraine,” by WaPo’s Rachael Bade and Mike DeBonis: “House Democratic leaders are eyeing a fast-paced investigation into the possible impeachment of President Trump, instructing the committees handling the probe to wrap up their findings within weeks in hopes of concluding before the holiday season.

“Multiple Democratic lawmakers and congressional aides said there is no formal timeline for the inquiry, but the ‘need for speed,’ as one aide put it, comes as Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is under pressure from vulnerable freshmen to keep the investigation narrowly focused and disciplined. …

“‘Very few hearings, if any,’ said a senior Democratic aide, who said the coming investigative work will largely take place in closed-door interviews. The aide spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak frankly.”

— FOR DEMOCRATS, THERE ARE MANY WAYS impeachment can go sideways politically. One of them is impeaching TRUMP without a bunch of hearings. Let us preview how Republican groups like the NRCC and Congressional Leadership Fund will take that into campaign season in every competitive district in America: “Congressman X wanted to impeach Donald Trump without holding hearings. Impeach the president? Without hearings? Congressman X is too extreme for us.”

QUOTE OF THE DAY, via NYT’s Nick Fandos: “‘We should be focused and not overthink this,’ said Representative Eric Swalwell, Democrat of California and a member of the intelligence panel. ‘The guy has copped to this. If you are running an investigation, it is usually made a lot easier when the person admits to the crime. You can cross a lot of witnesses off the list that you might otherwise talk to.’” NYT

NYT’S DAVID BROOKS, in a column arguing impeachment is wrong: “This is completely elitist. We’re in the middle of an election campaign. If Democrats proceed with the impeachment process, it will happen amid candidate debates, primaries and caucuses. Elections give millions and millions of Americans a voice in selecting the president. This process gives 100 mostly millionaire senators a voice in selecting the president.” NYT

ANOTHER ONE? — “Trump’s Pick to Head ATF Is in Jeopardy,” by WSJ’s Sadie Gurman and Michelle Hackman: “The confirmation of President Trump’s pick to head the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is in jeopardy as some Republican senators expressed concern that he would restrict the rights of gun owners, people familiar with the matter said.

“Chuck Canterbury, the head of the national Fraternal Order of Police, doesn’t have enough Republican support to advance beyond the Senate Judiciary Committee, the people said, and a Thursday vote on his nomination was indefinitely postponed.” WSJ

THE JUICE …

— FROM NANCY COOK … OMB STAFF DEPARTURES: Two top communications and press officials are leaving the Office of Management and Budget. Wesley Denton, who served as a senior adviser, has left the agency to return to the Conservative Partnership Institute. Jacob Wood, OMB’s deputy director for communications, is leaving the agency today to go to the Millennium Challenge Corporation as a strategic communications adviser.

NATASHA KORECKI: “How Trump’s Biden mania led him to the brink of impeachment”: “The cascade of tweets began at 4: 56 AM on May 1, starting with the president’s criticism of the nation’s largest firefighters union’s endorsement of Joe Biden. Over the next two hours, more than 60 retweets bashing Biden and the firefighters’ decision would follow from Donald Trump’s Twitter account.

“The burst of activity came during a three-month period that reveals an extraordinary preoccupation with his potential general election rival, and provides a window into Trump’s thinking in the run-up to his fateful July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“At home and abroad, on Twitter, at campaign rallies, in interviews and even from the White House lawn, Trump spent an inordinate amount of time deriding Biden and insisting that the former vice president could not be ahead of him in polls — despite the fact that Biden has led the president in general election match-ups in every major poll conducted in 2019.” POLITICO

2020 WATCH … BIDEN ON THURSDAY NIGHT, in San Marino, Calif., via the L.A. Times’ Matt Pearce: “At a private fundraiser in San Marino, Calif., on Thursday afternoon, former Vice President Joe Biden accused President Trump of trying to ‘hijack an election’ by seeking help from Ukraine to investigate Biden’s family. ‘He’d like to get foreign help to win elections,’ Biden told a few dozen attendees, adding a chuckle. …

“Biden also hit themes of economic equality. He criticized Milton Friedman’s theory of shareholder primacy for corporations and told the well heeled audience, ‘Folks, if you’re looking for a tax cut, I’m not your guy.’”

“Anxious Biden Allies May Unleash Super PAC,” by NYT’s Alex Burns and Jonathan Martin

SUNDAY SO FAR …

  • FOX

    “Fox News Sunday”: Highlights of Chris Wallace’s interview with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani from earlier this week. Panel: Rich Lowry, Donna Edwards, Gillian Turner and Mo Elleithee.

  • CNN

    Panel: Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), David Urban, Aisha Moodie-Mills and Bill Kristol.

  • NBC

    “Meet the Press”: Yamiche Alcindor, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Hugh Hewitt and Mark Leibovich.

  • CNN

    “Inside Politics”: Vivian Salama, Manu Raju, Jackie Kucinich and Molly Ball.

TRUMP’S FRIDAY — The president will participate on a High Holy Days call with Jewish faith leaders at noon. He will deliver remarks at the Hispanic Heritage Month reception at 6: 30 in the East Room.

POLITICO MAG’S FRIDAY COVER … TIM ALBERTA: “When Impeachment Meets a Broken Congress”

WHAT JAMES JEFFREY IS READING — “U.S. Intelligence Finds Syrian Government Conducted Chlorine Rocket Attack in May,” by WSJ’s Michael Gordon: “Syrian government forces carried out a chlorine attack in May, the first confirmed violation of the international accord banning chemical weapons since President Trump authorized a U.S. military strike on Syria in 2018 over its alleged use of poison gas, a new U.S. intelligence assessment says.

“The episode took place on May 19 near the village of Kabana as President Bashar al-Assad’s forces sought to subdue resistance in Latakia province, a senior U.S. official said.” WSJ

TANKER UPDATE … REUTERS: “U.K. tanker leaves Iranian port after being seized in July”

— Shipping company Stena Bulk (@stenabulk): “Erik Hanell, President and CEO, Stena Bulk: ‘Stena Bulk and Northern Marine Management confirm the Stena Impero and its crew have been released.’”

NUUK DISPATCH — “A Trump Bump Is Turning Up the Heat on Greenland’s Real-Estate Market,” by WSJ’s Candace Taylor: “Prices may go even higher, thanks to the sudden spotlight thrown on Greenland by President Trump’s comments about buying the island, an autonomous territory in the Kingdom of Denmark. Though many Greenlanders and Danes were angry at first, local real-estate agents and tour operators say the attention generated by Mr. Trump led to an uptick in inquiries from outsiders interested in visiting or buying homes.” WSJ

TAX DEAL … WSJ: “New York state prosecutors and lawyers for President Trump told a federal judge Thursday that they had reached a deal to temporarily resolve their dispute over a subpoena for eight years of the president’s tax returns. …

“In a letter to U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero, lawyers for Mr. Trump, Mazars and the district attorney outlined the agreement. Prosecutors agreed not to enforce the subpoena until two business days after either Oct. 7 or Judge Marrero rules whether to at least temporarily block the subpoena, whichever comes first. Mazars agreed to gather and prepare documents, and hand deliver a batch by 4 p.m. on the day the agreement expires.” WSJ

VALLEY TALK … NYT’S KEVIN ROOSE: “The last time America watched an impeachment inquiry, it was largely an analog affair. When the House voted to begin impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton in 1998, only one in four American homes had internet access. AOL and Yahoo were the biggest websites in the world, and ‘tweet’ was a sound birds made.

“If the inquiry opened by House Democrats this week results in a formal impeachment of Mr. Trump, it will be the first of the social media era. In many ways, it is a made-for-the-internet event. The political stakes are high, the dramatic story unspools tidbit by tidbit and the stark us-versus-them dynamics provide plenty of fodder for emotionally charged social media brawls.” NYT

— OXFORD STUDY: “Evidence of organized social media manipulation campaigns which have taken place in 70 countries, up from 48 countries in 2018 and 28 countries in 2017. In each country, there is at least one political party or government agency using social media to shape public attitudes domestically.” The study, by researchers Samantha Bradshaw and Philip N. Howard

— “The Truth About Trump’s Insane Ukraine ‘Server’ Conspiracy,” by The Daily Beast’s Kevin Poulson: “‘It almost sounds like he was babbling to the president of Ukraine,’ said Robert Johnston, CEO of Adlumin, who led the DNC breach investigation while at Crowdstrike. ‘I imagine it would have confused the [Ukrainian] president. Like, “What are you talking about?” …

“Crowdstrike’s findings were never controversial among security experts, and they were later confirmed by FBI agents with access to the same evidence, as well as additional evidence Crowdstrike never had. In October 2018, Robert Mueller indicted 12 GRU officers for the DNC intrusion and hacks targeting John Podesta and the DCCC.” Daily Beast

MEGATREND — “U.S. Income Inequality Worsens, Widening To A New Gap,” by NPR’s Bill Chappell: “The gap between the richest and the poorest U.S. households is now the largest it’s been in the past 50 years — despite the median U.S. income hitting a new record in 2018, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

“U.S. income inequality was ‘significantly higher’ in 2018 than in 2017, the federal agency says in its latest American Community Survey report. The last time a change in the metric was deemed statistically significant was when it grew from 2012-2013. …

“[T]he income gap grew wider in nine states: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Kansas, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Texas and Virginia.” NPR

MEDIAWATCH — INTERVIEW DU JOUR: “Kathryn Murdoch Steps Out of the Family Shadow to Fight Climate Change,” by NYT’s John Schwartz: “Ms. Murdoch’s public comments confirm what many who closely watch the intricacies and intrigues of the Murdoch empire have long believed: that she is more progressive than many other members of the family.” NYT

— THE BACKLASH: Critics blast New York Times for outing whistleblower as CIA officer and giving clues to his identity,” by Paul Szoldra in Task and Purpose

— NYT’S DEAN BAQUET RESPONDS: “The role of the whistle-blower, including his credibility and his place in the government, is essential to understanding one of the most important issues facing the country — whether the president of the U.S. abused power and whether the W.H. covered it up. … We also understand that the White House already knew he was a C.I.A. officer.” NYT

— JACK SHAFER: “The New York Times Was Right to Unmask the Whistleblower”

WAPO’S PAUL FARHI: “How a conservative columnist helped push a flawed Ukraine narrative”: “What’s clear is that [John] Solomon — a former Washington Post investigative reporter who later became editor of the conservative Washington Times — has played an important role in advancing a flawed, Trump-friendly tale of corruption in Ukraine, particularly involving Biden and his son Hunter….

“Solomon’s stories … have been echoed and amplified by Trump, his son Donald Jr. and Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, who has been at the heart of Trump’s effort to extract damaging information from Ukrainian officials about the Bidens. …

“Hill editor in chief Bob Cusack referred a request for comment from the paper to another executive, who did not respond.” WaPo

Send tips to Eli Okun and Garrett Ross at [email protected].

SPOTTED: Ivanka Trump and Chris Korge separately at Cafe Milano on Thursday night. … Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) at the Eastern bar in Eastern Market on Thursday night for a celebration for Alex Ball, Crow’s outgoing COS. …

… Michael Nutter on the 9: 10 p.m. Amtrak regional out of New York on Thursday. … U.S. Ambassador to Germany Ric Grenell at a dinner with about 20 supporters of his global effort to decriminalize homosexuality at a private D.C. residence Thursday night.

SPOTTED at a Cohen Group welcome reception for Jim Mattis at the Ritz-Carlton on Thursday evening: William Cohen, Norty Schwartz, Marc Grossman and Nick Burns.

SPOTTED at NARAL Pro-Choice America’s 50th-anniversary celebration Thursday night at the Capital Hilton: Hillary Clinton, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Tom Perez, Brina Milikowsky, Stephanie Cutter, Karen Finney, Chuck Pruitt, Glynda Carr, Rene Redwood, Steve Kerrigan, Celinda Lake, Mike Spahn, Mary Beth Cahill, Kate Michelman, Karen Mulhauser …

… Ilyse Hogue and John Neffinger, Stephanie Schriock, Emily Cain, Alyssa Mastromonaco, Zach Silk, Tony Massaro, Bill Smith, Tom Perriello, Katherine Grainger, Angelo Carusone, Anna Burger, Hilary Rosen, Scott Fay, Tiffany Muller, Jen Bluestein, Josh Dorner, Nathan Milikowsky and Rebecca Gold Milikowsky, Shannon Hunt-Scott, Dagmar Dolby, Fran Rodgers, Swanee Hunt and Sunita Leeds.

SPOTTED at the home of Tom and Lynn Meredith in Austin for #tribWomenInspire and Piper Kerman’s birthday: Austin Mayor Steve Adler, Courtney Spence, Dyana Limon-Mercado, Lisl Friday, Jehmu Greene, Royce Brooks, Victoria DeFrancesco and Virginia Cumberbatch, Shannon Watts, Corrie MacLaggan, Mark Strama and Allison Dew.

WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Luke Bolar, managing director of external affairs at ClearPath and an Edelman and David Vitter alum, and Kelsey Bolar, senior writer at The Daily Signal and fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum, welcomed Scarlett Payton Bolar on Sept. 12. PicInstapic

BIRTHWEEK (was Tuesday): CJ Mahler of Arnold & Porter … (was Wednesday): Mickayla Stogsdill of Arnold & Porter (hat tips: Kevin O’Neill)

BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Meridith McGraw, White House reporter/producer for ABC News. A fun fact about her: “I’m from West Virginia (cue ‘Country Roads’), an avid Texas Longhorns fan, and although I’m an Anglophile at heart, for the past few years I’ve had an Instagram account, @ParisintheDistrict, where I’ve posted photos of places in Washington that remind me of Paris. D.C. is a beautiful city!” Playbook Q&A

BIRTHDAYS: Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) is 53 … Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.) is 65 … Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii) is 67 … Anne-Marie Slaughter, CEO of New America … Juleanna Glover (h/t Ben Chang) … Jeff Birnbaum, president of BGR Public Relations, is 63 … Jeffrey M. Lacker is 64 … Jenny Burke of the TSA … WaPo’s Tony Romm … Megan Grant, VP for strategic comms at the Glover Park Group … Josh Mandel is 42 … Brian Killheffer is 38 … Christina DiPasquale … LaVerne Alexander … Kristin Sosanie … POLITICO’s Steven Overly, Jon McClure, Amanda Pietroski and Nick Tedesco … Will Bredderman … AP’s Pablo Gorondi … League of Conservation Voters’ Sara Chieffo … Laura Whitefield … Lucy McCalmont … Marty Franks … Alison Weiss, VP and head of government relations at MassMutual … Peebles Squire (h/t Kyle Wiley) … Francisco Urena … John Liipfert (h/t Tim Burger) …

… Brendan Dunn, partner at Akin Gump … former Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii) is 67 … former Rep. Peter Kostmayer (D-Pa.) is 73 (h/t Ed Mitchell) … Carl Woog, director of communications at WhatsApp … Christian Hertenstein of Definers Public Affairs (h/t Andrew Barnhill) … Marcus Sebastian Mason, senior partner at the Madison Group … Caitlyn Schneeweiss … Ed Niles … Deloitte’s Alexa Wertman Brown is 29 … Bryce Hallowell … Cuneyt Dil … Allie Owen … POLITICO Europe’s Nick Vinocur … Saraid Donnelly … Sam Raskin … Tim Traylor … René Carbone Bardorf … Earl Plante is 47 … ABC News’ Matthew Vann … Scott Moshier is 34 … Geoff Burgan, Iowa communications director for the Beto O’Rourke campaign … Lee Wasserman … Abby Curran … Michelle Carrier (h/ts Teresa Vilmain) … John Loredo … Dan Raviv … Minnesota state Rep. Frank Hornstein is 6-0 … Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades

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